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Thanksgiving is a holiday to be thankful for

Like with many things, I didn't fully appreciate Thanksgiving until the year I didn't have one.

When it comes to holidays, Turkey Day ranks a solid third for me, behind Christmas and Halloween.

It's got the benefit of being a holiday that revolves around food, which is a big attribute. But sadly, aside from the glorious leftovers, the festivities are generally limited to that one Thursday.

So when I agreed to take a trip to London over the long Thanksgiving weekend last year, I didn't really think about the implications.

Skipping Thanksgiving couldn't be anything like the pathetic experience of spending Christmas by myself. That year, as I've recounted to anyone who will listen, I ventured out to Waffle House, hoping to find some kindred, lonely spirits. But the waitress didn't even prod to find out why I was sitting there by myself, eating an omelet and trying not to cry.

Anyway, I'd be traveling with my husband and mother-in-law, so at least I'd be with family.

You can find some great travel deals to Europe over Thanksgiving, largely because most other Americans are scrambling to get back home for their own family meals.

November is off-season for tourism in England, but it's actually a great time to travel. The weather was chilly, to be sure, but the typical throngs of American tourists were nowhere to be found. We were able to make it through twice as many museums and attractions as we'd have been able to visit during the summer.

After the initial excitement of international travel wore off, though, I found myself feeling really bummed I didn't make it to my family's annual holiday gathering.

It wasn't just the turkey and pumpkin pie that I missed; it was the general feeling of good will and camaraderie that come with them. One nice thing about Thanksgiving is you don't have the added stress of opening presents. After the meal is prepared, there's nothing left to do but catch up with relatives or bond over a game of football.

As I flip on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and get to work peeling a mountain of potatoes, it's nice to think that a similar scene is playing out in kitchens across America.

Outside of the U.S., it's just another day. We spent actual Thanksgiving Day en route to England, standing in security lines at the airport and crunched into seats on a transatlantic flight.

The airport deli in Toronto wasn't even offering a special on turkey subs, so my Thanksgiving dinner was a French dip sandwich.

Come to think of it, I'm going to be in an airport this Thanksgiving Day, too, but luckily I'm heading home to visit relatives. If I can find a parking spot at the airport, make it through security and avoid any flight delays, I should be there just in time for the carving of the turkey.

I will be thankful for every minute of it.

E-mail Shelley Mann at shelley.mann@gwinnettdailypost.com.